Saudi Arabia has announced a new anti-terrorism coalition of 34 mainly-Islamic countries, includes several Gulf states and Egypt along with farther-reaching Muslim countries like Indonesia, but excludes Iran.
This comes at a time of ramped-up pressure on Middle Eastern countries from Western powers to do more to fight extremism in the region. Saudi officials say that's exactly what this coalition's intended to do—state-owned Saudi Press Agency calls it a “coordination with friendly peace-loving nations and international bodies for the sake of supporting international efforts to combat terrorism and to save international peace and security."
But so far, finding out what the actual duties of the coalition are has been largely elusive.
Many regional powers are already involved in a similar campaign with the US-led coalition, forged in September 2014 with airstrikes against Daesh (ISIS) targets in Syria. Earlier this year, the UAE and Jordan carried out airstrikes alongside US planes, but both countries operations with the coalition have slowed or quieted since the militant group burned to death Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kasabeh in January.
Turkey has also said it's carrying strikes against the group, though not as part of the US coalition. Meanwhile Saudi Arabia has looped many more countries into a campaign of its own against Houthi rebels in Yemen.
So while plenty of Arab and Muslim countries are bombing targets in various alliances, Saudi's announced coalition this week appears to be the first time so many are coming together. Yet, the actual actions they plan to carry out remain unclear. And apparently we're not the only ones left wondering.
Following Saudi's announcement, US Defense Secretary Ash Carter told journalists in Turkey the US was looking forward to "learning more about what Saudi Arabia has in mind in terms of this coalition."
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